The Best Bike Cities in North America: Portland, Oregon

You don’t have to give up the amenities of a large urban environment just because you prefer traveling on two wheels over four

Portland, Oregon.     Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Portland is well-know as the Mecca of inner-city cycling. It again received the designation of America’s Best Bike City by Bicycling magazine this year and is the only large city to have received platinum bike-friendly city status from the League of American Bicyclists—the highest recognition of bike-friendliness awarded by the organization.

The city boasts 180 miles of bike lanes and 79 miles of off-street bike paths, plus plenty of bike corrals for parking your steed. It was the first city in the United States to come out with bike boxes at intersections, which give cyclists a designated space (usually denoted by bright paint) to wait for the traffic light to change. It were also the first to start elementary-school bike commuting trains to encourage more kids to bike together to school in a safe and supportive way.

But not just anyone can duplicate what Portland has; it has taken over 25 years of planning and development to get the city’s cycle-friendly streets to where they are today. Now around six percent of residents in Portland bike to work—about 10 times the national average. And it pays to be bike-friendly. The bike economy brings in around $90 million each year to the Portland city coffers.

The popular bikeportland.org, run by the well-connected Jonathan Maus, keeps residents up to date on cycling-related news. Alta Planning + Design president, inner-city bicycling advocate, and all-around cycling fashion and advocacy icon Mia Birk also calls Portland home.

Culturally, it doesn’t get much better. There’s the annual Pedalpalooza event in June (during bike month in the U.S.) that brings together bike-enthusiasts of all stripes for over three weeks of pedal-focused celebrations. The local coffee shop Fresh Pot has 25 chairs inside and 26 bike parking spaces outside. The Go By Bike bike shop offers customers valet parking, bike rentals and repairs. Then there’s the bicycle dance troupe, the Sprockettes, that perform regularly in the area. And, if you’re lucky, you might catch a Zoobomb—adults riding “tricked-out kids’ bikes” down a steep hill near the Portland Zoo—or Filmed by Bike, an annual festival of short bicycle-themed films from around the globe.

And don't forget the Move By Bike program that doubles as a housewarming party. Run by SHIFT, a group of cyclists who share the joy of cycling with others, local people with bikes will help move your household possessions using their favorite mode of transportation for coffee, snacks, beer and a meal.

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